"Pushing the pay envelope" (Economics, Mar. 8) reported that my solution for fixing our recruiting shortfall was to take more high school dropouts. Let me set the record straight. The Army doesn't accept dropouts, as traditionally understood. At least 90% of our recruits must be high school graduates or have earned at least one year of college credits; the other 10% must hold a high school general equivalency diploma (GED). The 10% is a limit.
I suggest that we take a closer look at the thousands of additional GED holders who are available to recruit to identify those who have demonstrated the ability to be successful in the military. That would mean GED holders who have character references and a solid work history, who score in the top mental aptitude and motivational categories, and who meet our high moral standards.
The Army should simply not turn its back on the nation's GED holders. Many of them are young minorities who have heard the message that a high school education is the first rung on the ladder of success, and they are hungry for the opportunity that military training and discipline represents. As the world's best trainer, the Army can afford to take them. The truth is that many of our most highly decorated soldiers and highest-ranking career enlisted soldiers did not come to us with high school diplomas. Along the way, most have gone on to earn much more than their GEDs, including advanced degrees.
At the same time, I wholeheartedly agree that we also need to go after more of the college-enrolled end of the recruitment market. To do that successfully, we need to reinstill in America's youth the sense that military service is a civic obligation.
Secretary of the Army